The recent news that Google was ordered to hand over personal YouTube data by the federal court for the Southern District of New York was quite disturbing. While the viewing data for videos probably isn’t all that revealing or personal, it would be yet another step down and incredibly slippery slope for Google. However, the development was also entirely predictable. I’ve been saying for quite some time that disclosure of the massive amounts of personal data that Google has acquired (whether voluntary, compulsory, or accidental) is only a matter of time.
No matter your ideas or feelings about Google, I’m willing to bet you hold a slightly less favorable opinion of the government. But how long do you think it will be before Google is told to caugh up massive amounts of viewing data? Search histories have already been used in criminal proceedings (although it’s unclear whether the source was Google or the users’s own computer) so it’s certainly not difficult to see how the release of such data could be harmful and potentially damning for individuals.
Imagine for a moment that America was hit with another terrorist attack or a network of terrorists were operating within the US. Do any of you believe the government would think twice about requesting the IP addresses and any available info on people searching for or visiting site promoting terrorism? Or perhaps bomb making sites, or maybe even a recruiting site for the organization that claimed responsibility for the attack…
My point is, we’re not really all that far away from Google becoming the Big Brother entity that George Orwell wrote about in 1984 that people so often throw around when discussing issues of personal privacy.
Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes and for the following statements tell me whether I’m talking about Big Brother from the novel 1984 or Google, the “do no evil” search giant.
Is unavoidable in the media.
Controls the flow of information.
Tracks and logs the activities of individuals.
Claims to be for the betterment of mankind.
Is viewed by the public as a benevolent (yet incredibly powerful) figure.
Dictates people’s actions and determines what is right or wrong.
Scary isn’t it? Remember, “He who controls the past, controls the future.”